Last week Chris Sharma completed the first ascent of Stoking the Fire (5.15b) in the massive cave of Santa Linya in Catalunya, Spain. Perhaps the most prolific first ascentionist of high-end sport climbs, Sharma not only envisions and bolts these futuristic lines, but he also has the ability and work ethic to send them. Stoking the Fire is another example of Sharma operating at the highest level of the game. Rock and Ice caught up with Sharma the day after he clipped the chains of Stoking the Fire-- which happened to be the same day Adam Ondra sent La Dura Dura (5.15c)-- to learn more about this burly route.
It seems that Stoking the Fire meant a lot to you. What was your process with this route?
I'm super happy to have done this route! It was never my main objective, but it's something I've gone back to so many times over the last few years and in the end took me quite a long time to put together. Santa Linya is a huge cave about 25 minutes from our house and for us it's like our climbing gym. The lines are steep powerful and continuous. Climbing there and you just get stronger.
Stoking the Fire was one of the last few projects I had remaining at the cave so whenever we end up climbing in Santa Linya I would try it.
Was sending Stoking the Fire a mental breakthrough for you?
For me it was somewhat of a breakthrough for sure. I've been focusing single pointedly trying these hard projects that are all probably in the 5.15c range. After a couple of years I was progressing on these projects, but I was still without anything to show for it. Even though I've been climbing better than I ever have, I kinda got used to just always failing. It was so good to do this route and break that cycle and some of the negative thoughts that can come along with that.
What is the climbing on Stoking the Fire like?
The style of the route is very steep, powerful and continuous. For me this kind of route is hard because there aren't any places to shake and you just have to climb super tight and precise nonstop. There is like a 7 move crux with a bunch of left hand underclings and several hard stabs to a two and one finger pocket. The climbing is very involved and complex. For every hand move you have to do several foot moves.
Do you have other lines left that you bolted in Santa Linya?
There is a right hand finish that I bolted which will add another a section of 9a (5.14d) climbing on top of all the hard climbing of Stoking the Fire. This will surely be 9b+ (5.15c) or more. After sending the first part, I'm pretty psyched to start working on the harder finish.
What's next? Will you focus on La Dura Dura now? Or do you always keep multiple projects?
I'm super psyched to keep working on La Dura Dura. It is so inspiring that Adam sent today! In general though I work on several projects at once since it's a good way of keeping things fresh, staying inspired and not get overwhelmed by taking it all too seriously.